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"Is this a high-consideration purchase? Or not?"

I found inspiration today from a Harvard Business Review guest blog post arguing that — surprise! — the “modern marketer” must be a skilled analytics person, like an engineer or architect. (Pity the poor modern marketer — this requirement would be, of course, in addition to being social, customer-centric, a storyteller and a content creator. No wonder modern life is so stressful.)

I thought to myself, well, maybe, sure; in some contexts, the marketer as analytics-driven engineer makes sense, especially in the world of mobile marketing to consumers in which its absolutely essential to design automated marketing systems that can respond effectively to behavioral triggers, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Me, I don’t do the kind of marketing that’s so heavily dependent on real-time whatever. And that brings me to the point of this post. For years now, when people asked what kind of copywriting I did, I’d say B2B, with a smattering of B2C in “complex” areas, like insurance, higher education or financial services — in other words, where the ability to translate complex information into compelling pitches really matters.

Now that’s still true, but I think I’ve found a better way of articulating that market segment by way of Adele Revella of the Buyer Persona Institute. In her presentation at CMW last September, she used a phrase that really caught my ear: “high-consideration.” Responding to an audience question regarding the value of doing interviews that dug into the purchasing decision, Adele said they were not possible in “low-consideration” contexts (like buying a bag of chips or clicking on a banner link) because the purchaser had put little thought, or consideration, into the purchase. The investigations become meaningful, very meaningful, when customers put a good deal of thought into what they have to buy.

Notice the crucial distinction: it’s not whether it’s a consumer or business purchase, it’s whether the purchase involves a significant amount of conscious thought.

Bingo! Buying a soda for personal consumption or a box of pens for the office is low-consideration. But buying an insurance plan for your personal estate or a CRM service for your office is high-consideration.

Back to the original inspiration for this story: what do modern marketers need to know? For me, the distinctive skill sets are no longer (if they ever really were) between those for B2C vs. B2B, but for low-consideration vs. high-consideration. If your business is in the former category, then you’ll need more background in awareness advertising, behavioral triggers, POS set-ups, etc. But if your business is in high-consideration turf, as mine is, you’re going to find things like content marketing and lead nurturance much more relevant.

At least, that’s what I think about thinking. I think…

3 Responses to “Does B2B vs. B2C really matter?”

  1. Chris Willis says:

    This resonates strongly with me and our own B2B marketing journey, and parallels with our own thought processes around corporate learning. Consider, for example, sales training; there is an obvious distinction between the amount of investment and expected ROI in training a sales person to position and sell a highly technical, high cost piece of test equipment vs that box of pens or bag of chips. For those examples, low-consideration vs. high-consideration really hit the mark.

    I would, however, add one more important distinction between B2C vs B2B. That is, the consumer, even when facing a high consideration purchase, say a new car, is making that decision on their own based on their own personal values and criteria, and the authority to buy is their own (or perhaps shared with a spouse or other family members). Emotionally charged content, including storytelling, has the power to persuade the consumer who has the full authority to pull the trigger on the sale.

    High consideration B2B sales, on the other hand, are increasingly being positioned to business people who have less and less personal authority to make buying decisions on their own. These sales can be governed by a cadre of highly skilled buyers paid to enforce rules that take emotion and sometimes even perceived value out of the equation. This has to be factored into the marketing content you’re creating as well. As I’m sure you’re experiencing, it’s possibly to create compelling materials to do very well in generating vanity clicks and shares from “lookey loos” or influencers who may then be forced to go through a competitive bid process, using your materials as a baseline.

    So, I guess it’s a double-headed beast – the high consideration, high stakes, high cost nature of the purchase – but also the common denominator of all marketing and content (and learning for that matter) – nuances of the target audience. B2B is really hard.

  2. Chris,

    Thank you for the smart, in-depth reply! I think you’re right about the difference in buying processes between B2C and B2B — they still matter. A lot.

    I do think, however, that you can — and should — create content for the B2B sales process that does far more than generate clicks. In my experience, some of the most successful B2B content is “pass along” material, content that helps people who are “sold” on your product to make the best case, on your behalf, to the people they report to. This is an avenue that remains under-appreciated among content marketers.

  3. Ron Warne says:

    That’s really insight commentary on B2B vrs. B2C . As a new copywriter I thought I had to more or less pick one or the other to specialize in, now I understand it is more about the buying on a scale from low – high consideration.

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